Tag Archives: social identity

Tag Archives: social identity


Experiencing self discovery and social support in recovery while fighting lonelinessOnce a person is in recovery, they find that it’s better for them to separate themselves from those they used to abuse substances with. It’s a social identity transition – from that of a person struggling with addiction to that of a person in recovery. This distancing can be hard to manage at first because it’s a change; in fact, some people grieve this process because the substance abuse, the people they’ve used with and the routine they’ve established has become so comforting to them. Along with this social identity change often comes loneliness – just like a person who switches high schools must regain new social connections, a person in recovery will need to adapt to their new recovery environment.

Changes in Recovery: Loneliness

A 2018 study published in the Journal of Dual Diagnosis assessed 316 people who were attending a residential substance abuse treatment center and they found that loneliness was a serious implication for about 69% of the participants. For at least 79% of participants, loneliness was an issue at least once a month – and these feelings of loneliness can add another layer of complexity to one’s adjustment to recovery. In 2017, a young woman shared her story with loneliness – her friends left her side because they were embarrassed of her behavior when she was abusing substances, and she explained that her family kept her at arm’s length because they were so disappointed by her demeanor. She expressed that once she decided to seek out recovery, she connected with people more and focused on herself. She said,

“I learned to separate the feeling of loneliness from the experience of being alone, and eventually started to enjoy my own company.”

Holly Glenn Whitaker, a woman who has struggled with addiction but is now active in her recovery, explained that the beginning of her sobriety journey brought about many bouts of loneliness – and that she had to learn to love herself in the process. She stated,

“Recovery was the first time IN MY LIFE that I started to choose to be with me. It was the first time that I found comfort in my own company. And in that space, that oh-so-sacred space of isolation/solitude/whatever, I found God within me.”

For Holly, recovery gave her a chance to rediscover herself – and she explained that she did this through dance, baths, chant, yoga, reading, crafts and more. 12-Step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) can be a huge source of support when it comes to loneliness because many people find that not only can they relate to others in the group, but they can find solace in recognizing that the weight of the world isn’t on their shoulders. As human beings, we can only do so much – and we’re not capable of having every aspect of our lives figured out right away.

When loneliness creeps in, we can embrace it just as Holly Glenn Whitaker did – through self-reflection, meditation, activities that spark joy and much more.

Social Support in Recovery

Not only can we learn more about ourselves with this time during recovery, but we can start to make connections with others. 12-Step programs give us an opportunity to participate in weekly group meetings, where we can learn from others’ experiences. In addition to this, we can get to know people so that we can find a sponsor to guide us through sobriety. Loneliness isn’t really about being sad because nobody can be around you – it’s about embracing that you have this free time to learn more about who you are and what you want to do with your life. It’s about connecting with people who will be by your side as you embark on this beautiful journey of recovery. A 2016 study published in the journal Addiction Research & Theory discovered that 12-Step programs such as AA actually foster a social transition and identity change through meaningful activities and social networks that are built. There are many people you can start opening up to during this time, including:

  • Your therapist
  • A recovery leader
  • Peers in your group sessions
  • Your family members who support your sobriety
  • And more

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) argues that community is one of four major dimensions that support recovery, and that the connections we make can foster support, friendship, love and hope.

Don’t Let Fear of Change Hold You Back from Seeking Help

Change is inevitable in life, and it’s the only way we grow. If we can embrace this early on, we’ll be able to thrive in building a new community of people who want you to live a happier, healthier life. Recognize recovery for the multitude of benefits that it can bring to your life. Rather than being fearful of the loneliness that you may experience in recovery, acknowledge that it’s a much-needed time of transition for anyone who is ready to pursue sobriety. So much growth comes from this experience – and that’s something that you are capable of being a part of.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Teens discovering social identityAt this stage in their life, adolescents have not yet fully formed their critical thinking skills. Unlike how an adult may think, the adolescent brain typically does not have the capability to fully evaluate the choices they make, which certainly places them at higher risk for poor decision making. We often associate those adolescent years with “testing the waters” – so as parents, educators, friends, family and community members, the more aware we are of the vulnerability associated with this stage of development, the better.

A 2016 study published in the journal Health & Place found that for many adolescents, getting “drunk” is the norm; in fact, some would say that it’s part of their social identity. Another study titled “Drinking Over the Lifespan” emphasized that for many adolescents, binge drinking and drunkenness co-occur alongside sexual activity, illicit substance use and poor school performance. Peer pressure is a major consideration, with many teens leaning towards heavy drinking simply because their friends are doing it, too. How can we combat these issues so that our adolescents are able to live healthier lives?

The simple answer is to help them build a life with a healthy sense of identity. Heather Monroe, a psychotherapist at Newport Academy, told Daily Mail in 2017,

“If they have a passion, teens will be less likely to turn to substance abuse.”

By helping our youth become involved in meaningful activities, we can help them enrich their lives. Sports, theatre, band, art, dance and more provide adolescents with the structure they need for after-hour activities, and as they become more involved in games, productions, plays and more, they may feel less compelled to use substances. By building up personal passions, adolescents also develop strong support systems that reinforce the activities they care about.

Adolescent Recovery of Cumberland Heights (ARCH) originally began in 1985 when there were few other adolescent programs like it in the country. In 2019, we’re expanding our continuum of services with ARCH Academy, a unique program that offers 60 days to 6 months of residential care to adolescent boys ages 14-18 who are struggling with alcohol and/or drug addiction. This new program stems from Cumberland Heights, which has been around since 1966, and is located in Kingston Springs, Tennessee. The adolescent age is a critical time for development, making this a crucial time of positive influence. For more information, call us today at 1-800-646-9998.

Does Social Identity Play a Role in Addiction Recovery?

Who are you? If you were to describe who you are, what would you say? Most of us describe ourselves by the roles that we take on in society. Here are a few examples:

Mother.

Brother.

Cook.

Musician.

Godparent.

Whether we feel like we are or not, we’re part of society – and what we do does have an impact on the way we feel about ourselves, how we affect others as well as the way others view us. Addiction recovery is often a time that brings us back to this very question of social identity, and it can take us a long time to really come to grips with the answer. Humans are social beings, and our social identity does a play a role. In 2015, researchers found a variety of pathways that people take in terms of social identity – and for many, it all starts with being a part of the recovery community.

People often used the term “alcoholic” or “addict” to describe their social identity, but later come to use “a recovering person” to describe their role. This transition is a difficult one, and it’s because our culture tends to apply these “permanent” labels of “alcoholic” or “addict” as if to describe who the person is. As human beings, however, we’re much more complex than this. We have histories, fears, hopes, dreams, talents, personality, relationships and a host of other factors that make us more than what we’re going through at one time. Those in recovery work hard to build new social identity roles in the areas of work, study and family life, and that’s because their substance abuse once took over these parts of themselves.

Everyone has painful mistakes they’ve made in their lives, but for some reason, those with addiction are ostracized as if that is all they are. Fortunately, we have the power to create our own social identities, and it really all starts from within. Buddha once stated, “You demonstrate love by giving it unconditionally to yourself, and as you do, you attract others into your life who are able to love you without conditions.”

Social identity does play a role in recovery, and mainly by the way it transitions as a person changes their view of themselves over time. The process is beautiful, painful and winding, but it’s ultimately a soul-searching journey that’s courageous and life changing.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.


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